Commentary

The COVID Bump


If you want to understand what institutions people truly trust, pose an existential threat. That, more or less, is what a year of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. And now that it is being brought under some semblance of control, some of those institutions are seeing their role as trusted information providers erode along with it -- especially media and brands.

That's the finding of PR giant Edelman's latest in a series of ongoing tracking studies researching how the pandemic has impacted perceptions of trust of major institutions including government, healthcare professionals, media and even consumer brands -- the latter of which it seems, benefited from could well be called "The COVID Bump," but are now seeing consumer trust perceptions beginning to erode.

Major news organizations, in particular, have seen their role as the go-to source of information about COVID-19 erode 21 percentage points -- falling from nearly two-thirds of Americans depending on them for pandemic information to just 42% currently.

That's the biggest fall-off of any major institution as a trusted source of information about COVID-19, although both the Center for Disease Control and the national government have also declined as trusted sources of COVID information, while local sources -- especially respondents' own doctors, local healthcare facilities and local governments -- have soared as trusted sources.

While Edelman did not explicitly ask Americans to rate brands as sources of information about the pandemic, it did ask whether they felt brands have been "responding more quickly and effectively to the pandemic than the government is." 

How well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact on consumers' likelihood to buy that brand in the future, which declined from nearly two-thirds of Americans to less than half.

On the bright side, consumer perceptions about the role brands play in the pandemic also may not be as consequential as they were a year ago.

Asked whether "how well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact on my likelihood to buy that brand in the future," only 44% of Americans now agree with that statement, versus 61% a year ago.

The bottom line, notes Edelman's research: "Brand response still critical, but less acute."

5 comments about "The COVID Bump".
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  1. Kathy Ofsthun from CMB, March 15, 2021 at 11:23 a.m.

    Hi,
    Thanks for the interesting stats, I haven't seem much YOY comparison yet, so it's helpful.
    However, I don't agree with your interpretation of the data on COVID info sources. I don't see this as being about a gain or loss in trust, instead it is about what's relevant in the news today versus a year ago. Right now, people are looking for information on the vaccines, e.g., differences between the three, what to expect, when am I eligible, where to get one. These questions are best answered by your local government and your doctor, not by major news outlets. 
    So the data is interesting, but not suprising and not reflective of a loss in trust of major news outlets or the CDC. 
    Thanks for listening,
    Kathy O

  2. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., March 15, 2021 at 4:47 p.m.

    Almost no one gets their COVID information primarily from the CDC, national government, or local government. Surely when most people claim they are using sources what they really are using is media reporting on those sources, which adds a thick layer of selection and filtering.

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, March 15, 2021 at 5:09 p.m.

    @Kevin Killion: You can include me among the "almost no one" break. I have used the CDC and my local (state and town) governments as sources for COVID incessantly since the pandemic began. In fact, my state (Connecticut) has provided excellent weekly tracking on infections, hospitalizations, deaths, and positivity rates by municipality, and I've found it an invaluable resource for understanding the spread of the virus. The CDC could have been better over the past year, but I attribute some of the paucity of information to the past administration. Looking forward to a more invigorated CDC going forward, as I think we will need them more than ever in the future. 

  4. Kevin Killion from Stone House Systems, Inc., March 15, 2021 at 5:32 p.m.

    Joe, it's no surprise that you, as a journalist, or me, as a lifelong media researcher, would love digging directly into government sources. But how many people do you think actually do that? A few percent? I can't imagine that 40% of people get news directly from the CDC, as the chart suggests. It's far more likely people say that thinking of what they've seen about the CDC as mediated by news sources. So, I'm sticking with my "almost no one" phrase. This issue here is the utility of a study with such weak questions.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, March 15, 2021 at 7:04 p.m.

    Pretty much the same here in AU.

    On TV our public broadcaster has done a fantastic job (in fact the presenter has become a bit of a cult hero).   One of our press companies does an excellent global report where you can see the latest reporting from all available countries.

    But the one common thing is that while basically no-one uses the very 'dry' official data from our Federal and State health authorities, the media definitely do by wrapping up the information into a more digestible format.   But without the authorities there would be SFA to accurately report on.


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